Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Word[less] Wednesday: 1/17/2018

Good afternoon, friends!

Since I haven't done one of these in a while (and because my WDW Marathon Weekend recaps aren't quite ready just yet), here's a few pictures of what's been going on in my world the last few weeks!

Still riding the high from marathon #4.

Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom is STUNNING. The rides were cool, too :-) 

I had TONS of fun at the Cigna Blogger Event! Stay tuned to find out exactly what's happening here :-)

I will never tire of showing my medals to Princesses.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts was pretty neat- they had some excellent craft beers on tap.

Still our favorites.

Will run for fancy doughnuts.

We came back from Disney to TONS of snow- no problem for my Yaktrax Pros and Altra Paradigms :-) 

Lots of Disney recaps coming soon- promise!

What's been going on in your world these last few weeks?!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cigna Inspires: Overcoming Cancer and Celebrating Life


I'll be posting like a maniac on Instagram and Twitter this week/weekend so make sure you're following along to see all the Disney goodness!

In honor of this week-long celebration of running, I have another inspirational runner to introduce you to, Bindu Panapalli. Bindu has survived ovarian cancer and a resulting injury to her leg due to eight rounds of chemotherapy. Despite the challenges she's faced, Bindu will toe the line for the Walt Disney World 10k on Friday. Thank you, Cigna, for allowing me to share these awesome stories! Enjoy!


Bindu Panapalli, 47 years old and resident of Glen Allen, Va. near Richmond, always felt a desire to help people with cancer through research. By February 2016, she found herself at the start of 18 months of firsthand experience battling the disease through three surgeries and eight rounds of chemo – she just didn’t know it at the time.

Her journey began with a scheduled surgery to treat fibroids and a hysterectomy, leaving her bedridden. Six weeks later, persistent pain led the doctor to find a bowel obstruction and scheduled another surgery. This time, the doctor discovered ovarian cancer and it spread. Six rounds of chemotherapy, which also caused numbness in her leg hindering her ability to walk, stretched from summer into the fall. By November, the third surgery removed the rest of the cancer, but the battle still required two more rounds of chemotherapy in February 2017 before she could finally say she would feel like she’s truly recovering.

“I never thought I would get cancer,” Bindu recalled. “Even before all this, I wanted to help people with cancer as a researcher. After the diagnosis and treatment, I volunteered at the cancer treatment center every Thursday encouraging people during chemotherapy treatment. I was even on the bone marrow donor list.”

By August, she felt ready to start thinking about a return to work. She researched what her employer’s Cigna disability insurance benefits offered including the vocational coaching program, so she requested referral. That’s when she met Robin Randol, her Cigna vocational coach, who offered assistance.

“Every customer’s needs are different,” said Robin. “What she wanted was to build up her physical strength, so we talked about self-care and various strategies and tips to address fatigue and stamina. She also wanted to find a new job that matched her passion. We talked about career goals, updated her resume, and I provided help researching job leads.”

Well-educated, Bindu’s background includes nearly enough for a doctorate from India. She hopes to take her work history, education, and personal experience to help people.

“I want to help people,” said Bindu. “I want to interact with patients. Not sit in a lab anymore, but a make a real difference in people’s lives. Now, that I’ve had this experience fighting cancer, I can be even more helpful.”

Robin helped prepare her for job interviews and gave her the encouragement she’s needed to help take back her health and move closer to a job for which she can feel truly passionate.

One of the training programs Robin offered was the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events. Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their health and return to work goals by providing: access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment, software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.

As a result of her hard work and dedication, Cigna offered Bindu the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World® 10K presented by Cigna on Friday, January 5th as a member of Team Cigna. She will be guided on the race course by Jonathan Prokup, Cigna's executive sponsor of Achilles International and General Counsel for Cigna.

“I’m celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary in January at the race,” said Bindu. “When I cross that finish line, I want to raise a glass and celebrate life.”

The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals.

“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Robin. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively affect all areas of your life.”

“Cancer is a part of me,” said Bindu. “It changed my life completely. Now, because of Robin, I’m back at work part time work with a new employer building towards full time. I want to thank Robin because now I can look forward.”


Pretty amazing, right?!

If you're running this weekend at Disney (or anywhere else), GOOD LUCK! Remember, when your legs get tired, run with your heart. ❤

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017: A Year in Pictures

Y'all. 2018 is literally next week.  What?!?!

In lieu of a long post about 2017's triumphs and tribulations, I bring you my favorite photos/memories from each month in the past year- I can't wait to see what 2018 holds!


So many awesome and cool things happened in January 2017, but the absolute coolest thing was spectating the Inaugural Pop Art Half Marathon when the WDW Half was cancelled. Pure Disney magic.


After running in the sunny weather of Florida and the Bahamas for the Castaway Cay Challenge, coming home to very chilly and snowy runs in PA in February was rough. But luckily, this month was short and sweet and cold.

Meeting Princess Tiana at Tiana's Place on the Disney Wonder? Easily the highlight of March. See the full review of the trip here.


New race distances mean automatic PRs.  Matthew and I ran the Rails to Trails 15k and we both got shiny, new, personal best times. :-)


For our first wedding anniversary, Matthew and I snuck away to Walt Disney World for a quick weekend trip. And we met Baymax- definitely a highlight of the trip.


June brought plenty of firsts for me- first mud run in several years, first time admitted to a hospital for an illness (pneumonia), and the first time I ever went parasailing. Two of those were pretty cool.


Much of July was spent recovering from pneumonia, one week of it in Cape May, NJ with my love. Cape May is one of our most favorite places and we are always thankful when we can escape to the beach.


Still recovering, August was a month of lots of rest and a few bike rides. It's also an insanely busy time of the year for both Matthew and me at work so this is typically a month we don't do much other than work, sleep, and eat.

Finishing the Harrisburg Half on very little training was a favorite memory from September. You can read the full race recap here.


The entire Runner's World Half & Festival Weekend was such a blast! HUGE shout out to the folks at Altra and Runner's World for inviting me to be part of the RW Run Crew. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience!


Crewing and cheering for Coach Jeff at the JFK 50 miler with our running ohana was one of those life-affirming events that made me love the running community even more than I already do.


Most of my favorite memories revolve around this guy. ♥ Christmas-ing with my husband will always be the highlight of my December year.

With 2017 almost behind us, what's your favorite memory from this past year?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2018 WDW Marathon Weekend- Last Minute Tips

If you're headed down to Walt Disney World for the 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend, you've got just seven days until your magical journey of 3.1, 6.2, 13.1, 26.2, 39.3, or 48.6 miles begins!

This will be my 6th trip to WDW Marathon Weekend and I consider myself to be an experienced runDisney runner and spectator. I've gathered up some last minute tips here in this post to help you prepare for the upcoming race weekend. Enjoy!

What to Pack
There are a ton of packing lists out there in the interwebs that I think are fantastic (see my favorite list here and one I came up with a few years ago here). However, there are a few things I always make sure to pack that aren't necessarily on other lists:
  • Static Guard Spray. Nobody likes a tech shirt sticking to your body in all the wrong places. πŸ˜‚
  • Sleep Mask & Ear Buds. This helps drown out noise or lights from other resort guests on those nights when we're in bed by 7 pm for a 2 am wake-up call.
  • Safety Pins & Bobby Pins. There's really nothing a safety pin or a bobby pin can't fix- running costumes, hair emergencies, etc.
  • Portable Charger. This is a must when spending hours racing and then hours in the parks.

Track Your Runner/Yourself
Sign up for runner tracker here. You can track yourself, your friends, your runner, or sign other folks up to track you, etc. My mom and dad LOVE getting texts at 6:30 am race morning letting them know I crossed the start line. πŸ˜‰ I like to track my friends to I know when they finish and get a better gauge of when we can meet up after the race for beers.

Runner Tracker is extremely helpful if you are spectating for someone during the races- for the half and full marathon, there are several times you will get a text message letting you know where your runner is. These alerts help you stay on pace with your runner if you are planning on seeing them multiple times on the race course.

Check out my Spectator's Guide to Running for more tips.

Spectating Matthew and my Dad at the WDW Marathon in 2015.

Get Your Head in the Game
No matter the race distance, getting in the right headspace before a race is crucial to your experience and performance. The folks at Cigna created this really cool infographic for a mile-by-mile breakdown of the full marathon distance:

In the next few days before your race(s), try some meditation or some visualizing exercises to calm your nerves. Imagine each mile of the race and how you'll feel as you pass each one. Trust your training. Read race recaps so you'll know what to expect (find all my runDisney reviews here). Take some time for yourself, relax, and mentally prepare your game plan for your race(s).

Make Plans to Celebrate
One of the best parts of running at Disney is celebrating the race afterwards in the happiest place on earth! Whether you want to celebrate in the parks, at Disney Springs, or at your favorite restaurant with friends, be sure to make a plan and get the details in place before race weekend (who's coming? what time? how are you getting there?). The last thing you want to worry about after literally running your butt off is making dinner reservations.

Last year at Disney Springs after a celebratory dinner and
pint of Guinness at Raglan Road with Matthew's cousin.

Enjoy Your Miles
Most importantly, this next week, focus on how much you're going to enjoy running through Walt Disney World with 30,000 of your closest friends. The WDW Marathon Weekend is a truly unique and inspiring experience. Try not to worry too much about the races, the weather, or your finishing time. Focus on soaking up as much of the magic of race weekend as you can- it'll pass so quickly and become just a memory before you know it. Revel in the wonder and magic of Disney for as long as you can. ✨

I am sure there are things I'm forgetting- leave your race weekend tips- and which race you're running at WDW Marathon Weekend in the comments section below!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Accountability Monday: 12/26/2017

Good morning! And Merry (belated) Christmas to all who celebrate!

We just wrapped up the holidays with one family and are currently en route to our second of three Christmas celebrations- we put a lot of miles on our cars (and our feet!) this time of year.

With eight days left until the start of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, my training for the unofficial Goofy Challenge and unofficial Castaway Cay is officially over! 😁

I finished my last long run, 20 miles, on Christmas Eve, so now I'm a legitimate resident of Taper Town. And it feels so damn good!

Tuesday: 3.1 miles, 10:56 pace
Thursday: 3.1 miles on the treadmill, 12:06 pace
Saturday: 4 miles walked, 15:00 pace. 3.53 miles ran, 11:20 pace
Sunday: 20 miles, 13:41 pace

33.73 total miles

This week felt good. Strong. Fast. Look at those overall paces! This week felt super speedy for me, especially with the total mileage being as high as it was. The only downside to this week's training is the lack of strength workouts. Going into this short taper period (only 13 days until the start of the WDW Half), I'm going to focus on making sure to get in at least four quality strength workouts between now and the race start(s).

Best Run
I had been equally dreading and looking forward to Sunday's 20 miler. Dreading it because my last few long runs have been mentally tough and physically painful. Looking forward to it because I knew it was the last hurdle for this training cycle before heading into a relaxing two weeks of holidays and time with family.

But once I started running, I stopped dreading it. I relaxed. I settled into the run. The miles ticked by and before I knew it, my watch said 18 miles and I'd be done in less than 25 minutes.

And I felt GREAT! Sincerely, honestly, great. My legs were a bit sore and my feet were a little beat up but I could have definitely run 6.2 more miles and finished the marathon distance.

I don't know what changed or what was different, but it was such a solid long run and I feel 100% more confident going into WDW Marathon Weekend than I did just a few weeks ago.

All smiles after 20 miles.
And yes, I wore the Santa hat during the entire run :-)

Bravo Moment
See above. I ran 20 freaking miles. On Christmas Eve. 😁

Quote of the Week
Accurate. Especially when it comes to running.

And because this is the "Christmas edition" of Accountability Monday Tuesday, here's a holiday card from our family to yours! May you find joy, love, and peace this holiday season and in 2018!

PS- Need a little running motivation this week? Check out this weekend's guest post about using running to overcome life's obstacles.

Have a great week, friends!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Cigna Inspires: Combating Drug Addiction and Homelessness Through Running

Hi friends! I've got something really special for you today- a guest post, courtesy of Cigna!

Cigna has invited me to share some inspirational stories of all kinds of runners with one thing in common- they're all running next month at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Today, I'm excited to share Tony Randolph's incredible running journey: facing drug addiction, homelessness, and suicidal thoughts, running helped Tony get- and stay- back on his feet.


“I was at the end of my rope- using drugs at my Mom’s house, on the verge of homelessness, feeling suicidal, just tired of myself. My nephew told me about the Helping Up Mission, so I decided to check it out. It’s a spiritually-based program that helps with recovery for people who are broken. I was working in the kitchen, and some co-workers came in looking happy and joyous, and I decided I want some of that!”

For lifelong Baltimore resident Tony Randolph, that joy came from joining his co-workers in Back on my Feet (BoMF), an organization that combats homelessness through the power of running. Their running-based model demonstrates that if you first restore confidence, strength, and self-esteem, individuals are better equipped to tackle the road ahead and move toward jobs, homes, and new lives. After a 30 day commitment to running 3 times per week at 5:30 am, showing up on time and putting in the miles, teammates progress to Next Steps, a program that looks beyond running to set goals for the next steps in their lives: re-entering the workforce, job training, education, securing housing and health resources.

Tony appreciates that with BOMF, “nobody ever walks or runs alone, everyone starts and stops with you. From the first day, staff showed me they cared even though they don’t know me. That first run is called ‘Miracle Mile’- if you haven’t run in awhile, it’s a miracle to get through it! Running regularly at 5:30am gets you into mindset of getting up and going to work, and repetition is good.” 

Having Cigna come to the mission where he was living to do blood pressure checks and other tests for residents made Tony “commit to my health and pay more attention to my heart, my head and my feet- they’re all connected.”

Tony continues to run 3 times each week with his BoMF team, moved from the mission to full-time housing, and now operates his own landscaping business. BoMF helped him get his driver’s license and even paid half the cost of his first riding mower to get his business off the ground. 

As a result of Tony’s hard work and commitment to his health, The Cigna Foundation, a partner of Back on My Feet, is bringing Tony on an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World in January. As a symbol and extension of his health journey, he will participant in the Walt Disney World® 5K on Thursday, January 4.

“Enhancing the well-being of people and the places where they live directly connects to Cigna's mission," said Mary Engvall, Executive Director of the Cigna Foundation. “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their best health, but sometimes those opportunities are limited by factors outside a person’s control. The Cigna Foundation’s philanthropic giving focuses on creating health equity to help people achieve their best possible personal health and enjoy living their best lives.” 

Now Tony says, “Life is great! Back on My Feet showed me I can do anything, and they gave me the confidence to do it. I moved back in with my Mom, and where I used to do drugs now I run my landscaping business. I call it getting a raise- I’m not wasting my money on drugs! The confidence BoMF has given me makes me a much better man and father, and I’ve gone from being someone you didn’t want around, to now being the Fred Sanford of the family- whatever you need, call Tony and he’ll help you out. I’ve run several races with my youngest son, and I’ve completed 8 courses including the Baltimore half and some shorter races. Without the help of Cigna and BoMF, I don’t know where I’d be.”

BoMF Program Director Marybeth Moran said, “Tony truly is Back on My Feet for Life. We couldn’t do the important work we do for teammates like Tony without a good partner like the Cigna Foundation, whose mission to promote health, well-being and sense of security so closely mirrors our own.”


How inspirational is Tony, right?!

I'll be sharing a few more stories here in advance of WDW Marathon Weekend- if you're in need of some running motivation, just come on back next week! πŸ˜‰

Monday, December 18, 2017

Accountability Monday: 12/18/17

Good morning!

It's been a busy week in the McShupp household as we prepare for a few weeks of holiday celebrations and lots and lots of travel!

With our Disney trip just around the corner (less than three weeks until we are in the house of the mouse!), we are finishing up all our last-minute to-do's, including our last long run that we'll complete this Sunday.

Tuesday: Treadmill 5k, 37:51
Thursday: 5k outside in 19ΒΊF weather, 37:57
Sunday: 6.27 miles, 1:18:35

12.47 total miles

Missed all my strength workouts this week and each run was a bit of a struggle. Ugh. Sometimes this happens during training- I'm just going to ride it out and keep my fingers crossed that our last long runs of this training cycle this weekend go smoothly. We are going to try for 10 on Saturday and 18-20 on Sunday.

It was a bit weird seeing all my friends that are also Dopey or Goofy training completing their last long run this past weekend while we scheduled ours for this upcoming weekend. Even though I wrote this training plan based on our schedules, our running ability, and our plans for the races, it still gave me a bit of panic to see other folks out doing their long runs while we weren't.

Hopefully, all goes well this weekend and we can enjoy about two weeks of Taper Town before the WDW Marathon Weekend begins!

Best Run
Even though my headphones died at mile .75 and my watch died at mile 5.37, Sunday's long run was the run that I felt the least crappy. That qualifies as "best," right??

Proof that my feet do leave the ground when I run. 😏

Bravo Moment
This weekend, I made brownies with black beans. Black. Freaking. Beans. In brownies.

I have no picture because they are not pretty. But they tasted kinda ok and were zero Smart Points, so there's that.

Runner Gift Wishlist Items of the Week
First this week, I've got a gift for you that isn't even necessarily for runners, the Yaktrax Walk Traction Cleats. If you know someone who spends a lot of time outside in the winter, walking over snow or ice, this would be the perfect gift for them! You already know I'm a big fan of Yaktrax- get some of these for a great discount (50% off until 12/23!) and find out for yourself how awesome they are.

Please note that by purchasing through the link above, not only will you get a sweet discount but I may also earn a small commission through the Amazon Associates Program: Sparkly Runner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to[If you aren't comfortable with that, you can always head over to amazon and search for "yaktrax run" instead. 😊]

The second gift this week is one of my all-time favorite products, especially because I tend to end up injured no matter how hard I try not to be- KT Tape! This stuff is amazing and affordable- I just bought a roll yesterday at Wal-Mart for $9.97. 

KT Tape has helped me tremendously with my knee and my feet- for me, nothing works better on my tendinitis than this stuff. If you know a runner in your life that struggles with any type of common running injury, gift them a roll of KT Tape- they'll love it- and you!

Minnie Mouse inspired KT Tape keeping my knee together
 at the 2016 Princess Half Marathon.

Don't forget! There's still time to get a discount for last week's featured gift- StrideBox!

Use the code SPARKLYRUNNER10 for 10% off 3 or 6 month gift subscriptions. 

Use the code SPARKLYRUNNER5 for $5 off your first purchase. 

And congratulations to Maureen @PerpetuallyInjuredRunner, who won last week's contest! With an IG handle like that, she's a girl after my own heart. ❤ Happy running, Maureen!

Quote of the Week
With projected 18ΒΊF weather for our long run this weekend, I'll be repeating this all day. 

And because we're so close to Christmas (and because I'm a sucker for pug puppies), here's your Monday dose of cuteness!

Santa, I wouldn't mind one of these under the tree this year. ❤😏

Have a great week!